Aloha Friday Message – February 22, 2013 –

1308AFC022213 Persistent prayer

Read it online here, please.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you

Luke 18:1-8And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (NIV)

Mark 11:24  – I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.

Romans 8:26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

James 4:3You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Psalm 51:17The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

holy_spirit_intercedes_medBeloved, where is “The Presence of God?” In what way, in what place, or in what manner is God present in you, in your life, and in your prayers? What is “God’s Presence” anyway? Do you believe God has the omnipotence to be present in and around you at every moment in every place? Or do you believe God is “up there somewhere,” and not really involved much in day-to-day life?

Prayer is an act of faith and an act of hope. It is acknowledging an awareness of God (faith) and a trust that he hears our prayers (hope). If we believe he’s not listening, or perhaps not even there, what is the point of praying? When you pray, do you feel you are having a conversation with an imaginary friend? Have you felt awkward about starting or ending a prayer, or do you sometimes wonder if you’re praying wrongly because nothing happens?

You might say to me, “Jesus says ‘ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,’ and then James comes along and says, ‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.’” In both of these verses, the missing part on that question is the disposition for prayer. What is the temperament we need to bring with us to prayer? Do we stand, sit, hold our hands up, close our eyes, get on our knees, shout, pray silently, or sing? There is a simple answer: YES!

Prayer is a conversation with God. That means he is part of the conversation. When we speak, he listens; when he speaks … do we listen? If not, then it’s a “one-sided conversation.” And you are right, that’s no conversation at all. We cannot just pray based on an assumption that we know the will of God and we want to make a to-do list for him so he knows we are “in sync.” That just isn’t appropriate, and frankly it is still a one-sided prayer. We need to live our lives as being accountable for our actions, and pray as being dependent on God for his action.

The references today focus on persistence, propriety, and posture. Jesus tells us to be persistent but persistent in the context of his teaching. We are to abide in him and his teaching is to abide in us; otherwise persistence is moot. Jesus also says we have to pray “in faith, believing.” Paul says when we’re “stuck” while praying, the Holy Spirit can and will pray on our behalf in the very language of God so that our prayer is pure. James says we must pray for what God wants in our lives, not for our own passions. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us our conversations with God ought to be thoughtful and reverent.

If you have the opportunity to sit down for a discussion with a famous person – philosopher, movie star, politician, or anyone outside your immediate circle of friends and family – you make an effort to be polite, even-tempered, and attentive. With family and friends, you might act like that as well, but you would also be more likely to be freer in your language, posture, and tone. We want to speak to God with reverence and yet also we desire that closeness, that familiarity, which allows us to be comfortable in his presence. Have you ever wondered if he is comfortable in your presence? I have. When I know I am rife with sin, or praying while angry, when I let my mind wander as I recite familiar prayers rather than pray them, I wonder if I’m kind of like that noisy gong or clanging cymbal Paul spoke about.

Here’s what I want to leave with you today. You have the references (top of the page) about being persistent (Luke 18:1-8), honest (James 4:3), reverent (Ecclesiastes 5:2), and humble (Psalm 51:17). The following list – all with links to scripture – describes postures of prayer. There really is no single posture that is “best” or “prescribed” or “required for success.” Whatever posture helps you to be persistent, honest, reverent, and humble is the appropriate posture. When I pray the Lord’s Prayer for example, I pray standing with head bowed, eyes closed, hands raised in surrender. When I pray for my family, it is often sitting, or on my knees. When I pray in adoration, it is on my knees. When I pray in JOY, it is whatever the Spirit moves in me which can include shouting, clapping, dancing, singing, standing, and waiving my arms over my head. Here’s what the Bible says about posture during prayer (and it’s only a smidgeon of what’s there about it!):

Aaron and the people of Israel bowed down (Exodus 4:29-31)
Abraham prostrated himself while praying (Genesis 17:3).
David sat and prayed (2 Samuel 7:18)
Ezekiel prayed in a loud voice (Ezekiel 11:13)
Hannah prayed silently to the Lord (I Samuel 1:13)
Jeremiah stood before God to pray for his people (Jeremiah 18:20).
Jesus said we can pray privately and quietly (Matthew 6:6)
Jesus, during his agony in the garden, lay prostrate with his face on the ground (Matthew 26:39)
King Jehoshaphat placed his face on the ground (2 Chronicles 20:18)
Nehemiah sat down when he prayed (Nehemiah 1:4).
Paul prayed and sang in the spirit (I Corinthians. 14:15)
Peter went to his knees to pray (Acts 9:40).
Psalm 28:2 describes lifting up of hands (Psalm 28:2) as does Psalm 63:4, Psalm 134:2, and 1 Timothy 2:8
Queen Esther mortified herself before God (Septuagint * Esther 4:16 Chapter C:12-15)
Solomon prayed on his knees with raised hands (1 Kings 8:54)
Solomon prayed Standing with his hands raised (1 Kings 8:22)

* The Septuagint (LXX) is an ancient Greek translation of the Bible. This passage is from an expanded section of Esther which is not included in many Bible translations. It reads as follows:

Esther C:12 Queen Esther, in deep agony, turned to the Lord. Esther C:13 She took off her splendid robes and put on garments of mourning and grief. Instead of her rich perfumes, she put ashes and dung on her head. She did all she could to destroy any dignity in her appearance. She let her tangled and uncombed hair hang down over her body that she had always taken such care to beautify. Esther C:14 She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, “My Lord and King, only you are God. I am alone, and I have no one to turn to but you. Help me!  Esther C:15 I am about to risk my life.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever you decide to pray, take just a moment at the beginning to acknowledge the One who will be listening.

 

Pray often, and you will pray well for the Holy Spirit will form in you a habit of prayer that brings you closer to union with the Trinity. And now, I ask you to pray a prayer of faith, believing that God knows the names and needs of everyone who prays for us and everyone who asks for our prayers, especially that ever-lengthening list of prayer requests sent to the MBN. There’s a page on the MBN site you might like. It’s a short collection of prayers by Augustine of Hippo. (354-430 AD), whose works formed the basis of the development of Western Christianity, philosophy, and most importantly, theology.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

 

AGE QUOD AGIS

chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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